NAIROBI, Kenya – A vice president of the Kenyan Olympic committee was arrested on suspicion of theft Monday, dragged out from under his bed by police as he hid in an apartment filled with boxes of brand new Nike running shoes and other apparel that was meant to be given to athletes for the Rio de Janeiro Games three months ago.
The arrest came as it was alleged in a soon-to-be-published report by investigators that more than $800,000 set aside to pay for Kenyan athletes’ expenses at the Olympics – and large amounts of equipment provided by team sponsor Nike – was stolen by high-ranking sports officials.
National Olympic Committee of Kenya vice president Ben Ekumbo, who is also head of the country’s swimming federation, was arrested at his home in Nairobi by officers of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation police unit. Ekumbo was found under his bed when officers forced their way in after he refused to let them in, Kenyan media reported.
In Ekumbo’s apartment police found Kenyan Olympic team uniforms, tracksuits, kit bags in their original plastic packaging, and boxes of new and unused Nike running shoes specially designed in the colors of the Kenyan flag.
He is the fifth senior Olympic committee official to be arrested in the investigation into missing money and equipment that was ordered by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta following the Olympics in August.
Four officials were arrested in September: Kenya’s team leader at the Rio Olympics, Stephen Arap Soi, was charged with stealing over $250,000 that was meant to be used for athletes’ travel, accommodation and other expenses in Rio. Another vice president of the Olympic committee, Pius Ochieng, and secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul were charged with stealing Nike kit. They all denied the charges and are out on bail.
The other official, committee treasurer Fridah Shiroya, had charges against her dropped and she is expected to be a state witness and testify against the others.
Monday’s arrest of Ekumbo, who was the deputy team leader under Arap Soi at the Olympics, follows revelations in their report that investigators believe as much as $860,000 meant for Kenya’s Olympic team may have been misappropriated by officials at the Olympic committee and the sports ministry.
The report also said that the Kenyan Olympic committee should account for the $1.2 million it received from Nike every year since 2013 because of suspicions that some or all of that money has also been misused.
The investigators’ report has not been officially released but parts of it have been seen by The Associated Press.
Kenyan sport, and specifically athletics, is in turmoil with the senior leadership of the track and field federation and now the Olympic committee facing allegations of major corruption.
In a separate investigation by the IAAF, Athletics Kenya’s vice president, chief executive, secretary general and former treasurer all face allegations of seeking bribes to suppress doping cases, while three of them are accused of embezzling $700,000 of their sponsorship money from Nike.
Athletics Kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat was also suspended pending an investigation into the missing Nike money but he died in August.
Kenya’s Olympic committee was disbanded by the government in the wake of the Rio scandal. The International Olympic Committee, which does not allow governments to interfere in national Olympic bodies, demanded Kenya re-establish it or face being suspended.
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